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BASCS Guidance

BASCS Vocabulary Tool

A Vocabulary Tool for BASCS Common Administrative Functions is being developed in fiscal 2004-2005 by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) according to the Strategic Planning Process outlined below. It will be made available once it is approved for release. Click here for a status update.

A Strategic Planning Process for the Creation of a BASCS Vocabulary Tool


On Monday March 8, 2004, a group of expert vocabulary tool designers was invited by LAC staff to address the following question:

"What are the key issues to be addressed in order to begin the development of a thesaurus for BASCS?"

BASCS = Business Activity Structure Classification System. Over time, BASCS will serve a key connector for many aspects of Governement of Canada (GoC) Information Architecture.

The session was led by a professional facilitator with library and information management expertise.

During the session, it became apparent that although the BASCS project would benefit from a vocabulary tool of some kind, a thesaurus was not necessarily the best or only tool required.

The process followed during the session was as follows:

  1. A total of 83 recommended activities and considerations were expressed d by group members (previously delivered to the LAC);
  2. A set of broad activity categories (e.g. "Needs Analysis", "Conceptual Design" etc.) was developed, and arranged by the order in which they should be addressed;
  3. Each suggestion was linked to one or more activity category;
  4. Two initial activity categories ("Needs Analysis" and "Scoping") were examined in greater depth; and
  5. A brief evaluation of the session was conducted (attached).

This document presents and provides context for the broad activity areas and the activities associated with them. It is intended to be a working document that will undergo revision and elaboration over time. Given the expertise of the participants, discussion focused primarily on the activities from "Needs Analysis" through to "Conceptual Design".

A summary of initial tasks and durations is included.

Overarching issues common to all phases were identified as:

  • Bilingualism
  • Communications
  • Ongoing involvement by representatives of appropriate sectors
    (including existing pilot groups)
  • Resourcing (funding, etc.)
  • Technology

Because these considerations are an inherent aspect of every phase, they are not specifically noted in the activities for each.

Overview of Project Phases

Note: Each of these phases should be regarded as a project unto itself.

Planning Phases


Informing GoC information sectors of the BASCS initiative; determining the needs of multiple users for a vocabulary tool


Determining what specific needs the tool will and will not address


Designing the tool


Determining how direct and indirect costs compare to benefits
Development Phases

Development Phases


Designing and creating a prototype of the tool


Testing the prototype with a variety of users in a variety of settings


Evaluating tool performance and making adjustments as required

Description of Each Project Phase


Informing GoC information sectors of the BASCS initiative; determining the needs of multiple users for a vocabulary tool

Identified Task(s):

  • Verification of Requirement
  • General Information Session
  • Focus Groups
  • Research on Existing Tools

Each of these tasks is described below. The tasks could be conducted in parallel.

Verification of Requirement

Contact members of the original steering and pilot groups to determine if it remains necessary to develop a vocabulary tool for BASCS in light of the deliberations of March 8, 2004 and any other experience / knowledge.

General Information Session

Assuming there remains a need for a BASCS vocabulary tool, a general information session will be held raise awareness in the following areas:

  1. What BASCS is, how it relates to the overall GoC Information Architecture;
  2. The importance of determining user needs with a view to designing a vocabulary tool in accordance with those needs (including a recognition of the needs of different user groups);
  3. A brief overview of potential vocabulary tools; and
  4. Next steps (address how all stakeholders will be kept informed and involved).

It will be made clear that the question of whether the tool will address only common functions, or the functions of all departments and agencies will be addressed at a later date.

Representatives of the following groups within the GoC will be invited:

  • The IM and Operations sectors of departments and agencies
  • The Information Management Policy Committee (IMPC)
  • The Government On-Line (GOL) Metadata Working Group
  • The Clusters and Gateways community
  • The Information Architecture and Technology communities
  • The Records Management community (e.g. The Records Management Institute)
  • The IM Forum
  • The Finance Management, Human Resource Management, Material Management, Real Property Management, and General Administration areas
  • The Information Management Division of Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
  • Information Resource Centres and Libraries
  • The Knowledge Management sector of Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • Management Forum Plus
  • IM Leadership Initiative

Note: This list is not exhaustive. It is also recognized that there will be overlap between various groups.

Focus Groups

A series of focus group sessions will be held with key players representing various user communities (e.g. end users, IM, KM, RM, etc.) to address their specific issues and needs, and to determine where the greatest degree of commonality exists.

All groups will be asked the questions:

"Describe what you need to help classify and retrieve your departmental information in accordance with the BASCS classification."

"How would you wish to be involved with, or a least keep informed of developments regarding the evolution of the tool?"

Other questions specifically targeted to each group will be developed.

Research of Existing Tools

Develop an inventory of existing vocabulary tools for subject and functional classifications currently in use in departments and agencies.

Phase 2: SCOPING

Determining what specific needs the tool will and will not address

Identified Task(s):

  • Determine if the tool should apply to:
    1. All common functions only?
    2. All departmental functions (i.e. common and specific to departments)?
    3. Common functions plus s sub-set of departmental functions?

Key Considerations:

  • The user population (RM? Practitioners? Others?) must be clearly identified.


Designing the tool

Identified Task(s):

Assemble a team of controlled vocabulary experts to design a tool based on the needs analysis and scoping phases.

Key Considerations:


  • What is to be indexed, and in what formats (i.e. electronic and paper)?
  • What is the size of the "document universe"? Size will determine specificity of vocabulary
  • Ideally, a generic model can be developed for multiple uses

Keep in mind:

  • Library, RM and practitioner contexts are not the same
  • Methods of managing information may be different than methods of providing access to it
  • Need for a clear understanding of the different kinds of vocabulary tools (e.g. glossaries, taxonomies, thesauri, etc.) and how they could meet user needs


  • Files may be created for records management purposes, but will end up on desktops - need to link everyday terminology to the system
  • User needs may not be met by a pure thesaurus per se; it may be part of a broader solution


  • Allowing users to define terms defeats the purpose of a common vocabulary tool (Thesauri create semantic contexts and single meanings; changes to terms by departments re-defines the vocabulary)
  • Context crucial: Terms (e.g."planning") has different meanings in different contexts
  • Determine rules for inclusion / exclusion of terms
  • How define consensus between communities (e.g. on term definitions)?
  • How to define levels within the vocabulary tool (i.e. subjective or objective approach to function, sub-functions, activities)
  • If the status of record changes during its life cycle, does the term used to describe it change too?
  • Integration with existing tools (e.g. Government of Canada Core Subject Theraurus); how to address different interpretations of the same term
  • Keeping the common vocabulary at too high a level could lead departments to create their own thesauri
  • Legacy issue - how to validate new terms?
  • Lifecycle of records (i.e. from active to archived); terminology should not require duplication of effort to describe functions over time
  • Need for a validation process - new and changing terms (legacy issue)
  • Need to resolve the confusion between "function" and "subject"
  • Tools must reflect Canadian terminology


  • Authoritative sources (e.g. ISO) should be followed
  • Need for an "editor in chief" to make final, binding decisions based on input from various groups
  • Need to document editorial rules in a policy document before beginning construction


  • How to ensure compatibility across departments - one technological base or many interoperable technologies?
  • Look at other projects (e.g. work of the National Archives of Australia) for ideas on extensible mechanisms
  • More likely to obtain secure funding if the end product is used by multiple user groups and departments
  • Record creation can be anticipated (i.e. not always necessary for file to be created before being indexed)
  • Term construction (pre/post coordination) and search capabilities (e.g. Boolean) has cost implications (along with size of vocabulary)
  • Thesauri are labour-intensive - expensive to maintain over time


Determining how direct and indirect costs compare to benefits

Identified Task(s):

  • Assign one or more individuals with expertise in IM project costing to assess:
    1. The initial and long term costs of developing and implementing the BASCS vocabulary tool; and
    2. The impact of NOT developing and implementing the tool.


Designing and creating a prototype of the tool

Identified Task(s):

  • Address coordination of use and maintenance issues
  • Decide whether to employ "deductive" or "inductive" method of project management in determining when and how to build the tool and roll it out over time
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Determine where ownership resides
  • Include end-user documentation and training
  • Include stakeholders as well as analysts


Testing the prototype with a variety of users in a variety of settings

Identified Task(s):

  • Develop examples of how the tool will work in different contexts (e.g. IM; RM; departmental professional; general public; etc.)
  • Validate implementations across departments


Evaluating tool performance and making adjustments as required

Identified Task(s):

  • Develop and apply criteria to measure project success

List of Attendees

Barton, Keith HC

Bradley, Merridy LAC

Emmanuel, Sherin LAC

Fitzmaurice, Susan PCO

Fotheringham, Jon LAC

Golding, Mimi TC

Lepkey, Gabriel HC

Lepkey, Gay CIO-BIC

Marleau, Yves FSG

Martin, Mitch NRCan

McCallum, David DLMCS

Meunier, Claude LAC

Morgenroth, Karen NRC

Meagher, Rob IT-NET

Read, Audrey CIC

Schaler, Faye CIC

Stone, Gerald LAC

Zeeman, Deane LAC

Contact us for more information on BASCS or Information Management.

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